Enjoying God’s Built-In Laughter Therapy
By LESLIE LUDY
Before Eric and I had children, we would often observe young parents impatiently tugging their small children along behind them in malls or restaurants. Their children were adorable, chattering away as they discovered the new world around them. But the parents seemed far too tired or rushed to even notice. Eric and I wondered, “How can they not constantly smile at how cute their children are?” But now that we have children of our own, we understand a bit more. As I said in Set Apart Motherhood, sometimes we parents can get so caught up in the logistics of managing a home and keeping our kids out of trouble that we forget to slow down and appreciate the built-in laughter therapy that God has given us right in our own families.
More and more I’ve come to realize that God didn’t just give us children to train and discipline them, but also to delight in them. And one of the best ways to truly thrive as a mother is to take time to notice and appreciate the adorable things they do and say.
Five-year-old Kipling (a.k.a. Dubber) frequently says the most hilarious things that can cause us to chuckle even during serious moments. Sometimes it almost seems like God put him into our family to keep us from taking life too seriously! Here are a few of my favorite Dubberisms (which are always said with a very serious expression and matter-of-fact tone):
- “Looks like this jar has ‘allergy’ growing in it!”
- “Oh no, someone ‘evangelized’ that building!” (i.e. vandalized!)
- “Our trip is coming soon. I need to pack my ‘soup-case’!”
- “Some animals like to ‘evaporate’ for the winter!”
- “It’s hot—I need to put some sun-scream on my arms!”
- “My favorite kind of snake is a boa-constructor!”
- “Did astronauts used to be ‘imaginated’…but now they are real?”
- “I need to clean my hands. Can I have some ‘hanitizer’ please?”
- This summer Dubber found a fat frog in our backyard and named him Fred. After a few minutes of being carried around upside down by an excited little boy, Fred managed to escape and began hopping around near an electrical box behind our house. Kip was very concerned about Fred’s safety and came running in the house yelling, “Hurry! We need to rescue Fred before he gets persecuted!” (Translation: electrocuted!)
Little Avy is a deep, philosophical thinker and question-asker. She is so serious about her questions that I have to struggle to keep a smile off my face during my “deep discussions” with her, which happen every few days. I had the following conversation with her a few months ago as I was tucking her into bed:
Avy: “I wanna grow up and have kids, but I don’t wanna get married.”
Me: “Why not?”
Avy: “Because I was at this place one time where two people were getting married, and it took so long and I just had to stand there and stand there. So I don’t wanna get married cuz it takes too long.”
Me: “Well, you can have a short wedding if you want.”
Avy: “But how do you know what guy to pick?”
Me: “You ask God, and He will show you.”
Avy: “You mean you don’t choose a guy but you pray and God tells you in your heart what guy to choose?”
Me: “Well, yes,…kind of.”
Avy: “So you were living with Nana and Pops, and you didn’t marry Pops, but you chose a guy named Pastor Eric?”
Me: “Right, but his name wasn’t Pastor Eric back then.”
Avy: “Well, when did you name him that?”
And then there is nine-year-old Hudson who continually makes funny statements without meaning to. A few months ago he wanted to know if he could take his passport and keep it in his room. I told him, “No, because if you lost your passport, that would be bad news!” He paused to think about that for a minute, then asked me soberly, “Would it be in the newspaper?” (I told him it wouldn’t quite be that kind of bad news!”)
Another day I told Hudson that he should not ride his scooter while eating a snack, because it could be dangerous. He confidently informed me, “Oh don’t worry; I’m very talented at it!”
In addition to the quirky things he says, Hudson is also an inventor extraordinaire. I can’t even keep up with all his ideas, but they always keep me smiling. Currently, He’s working on a Lego Christmas movie involving three main characters, Marco, Dan, and Uncle Ned. I haven’t fully grasped the plot, but somehow they start out in San Diego and then end up traveling to the North Pole. However, it is not a movie about Santa, but about the birth of Christ . . . one of the characters somehow ends up going to Bible school and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Sounds like quite an adventure! I am very excited to see the premier—it comes out the day before Christmas and I think I can get free tickets!
Seven-year-old Harper is such a soft-hearted little girl that she sometimes takes her love for animals and critters a little too far—like crying if we kill an ant or fly. Recently she decided that, in addition to her undying passion for doggies, she is madly in love with salamanders. There is little salamander that has visited us a few times this summer, whom she named “Rosie.” I never knew that you could cuddle with salamanders, but Harper puts it up against her cheek to “cuddle” with it, cooing and calling it “cutesy-wootsy.” After hearing all her reasons why salamanders are so adorable, I’m actually starting to think they are kind of cute!
Slowing Down and Enjoying My Kids
Being a task-oriented, type-A kind of person, slowing down to enjoy my children and appreciate all the hilarious things they do and say doesn’t come naturally to me. As I said in Set Apart Motherhood, there are many times throughout the day when I have to make a purposeful decision to stop what I am doing, get down on eye-level with my kids, and really listen to them and show interest in what they are saying. Taking time to delight in my children not only helps them feel loved and cared for, it also helps me lighten up as a mother. It takes my mind off of the logistics, the frustrations, the noise, and the discipline issues and reminds me what precious little gifts from God my children really are!
In Set Apart Motherhood, I described some of the ways that Eric and I take time to delight in our children:
“Every night as Eric and I are drifting off to sleep, we have a little tradition. He says, ‘Remember the kiddos?’ which prompts me to recount several funny, quirky, and/or adorable things our little ‘pumpkin doodles’ did that day, such as little Kip telling me that he had the ‘peacocks,’ which meant he had the hiccups. He also told the babysitter that he had a ‘mustache’ on his arm, which meant he had a rash. (We are still working on his vocabulary skills, but for now it’s entertaining to hear what he comes up with.) Or Hudson setting up ‘Hudson’s Toy Store’ in his bedroom and doing a high-pressure sales job on every unsuspecting person who enters our home, selling random articles from around the house at a premium price. There was a great sale going on today though; I got a pair of swim trunks, a baby hair bow, and a well-used book—all for seventy-five cents.
“Such anecdotes are precious to Mommy’s and Daddy’s hearts. But in the bustle of daily life, we forget these priceless moments unless we take the time to savor and enjoy them. Our nightly tradition cultivates a deeper tenderness and appreciation for the children God has given us and refreshes our perspective as parents. Instead of focusing on the challenges of parenting or on a discipline issue, we remember that these munchkins truly are a blessing from the hand of God, not just a duty or responsibility.”
Appreciating Their Uniqueness
I was so inspired when I read the story of Amy Carmichael’s ministry to children in India. Though she was involved in many life-or-death battles in the hostile territory where she lived and worked, God led her to create a beautiful oasis of sorts for the children she had rescued; a quiet, secluded, peaceful place where the children would be protected from the noise and stress of the outside world and able to flourish like flowers in a garden. One of the key factors that made this “oasis” such a special place was Amy and her co-workers ability to tune out the many ministry pressures and dangers that they faced, and just enjoy being with the children. Unlike so many missionaries who became distracted and bogged down by the battle, Amy and her fellow workers took time to love, nurture, and delight in each one of the children that they rescued. In her book, Lotus Buds, she shares funny and precious anecdotes about each one of the little children under her care — something that is truly amazing considering the dozens of children she took care of at any given time.
When we moms have many young children under our care, it’s easy to lump them all together and treat them as a group, rather than appreciating them as individuals. One of the ways I try to combat this tendency is to take “one-on-one time” with each of my children on a regular basis. The more children that God gives me, the less practical this is. And yet, spending individual time with my kids is crucial to helping me know and appreciate the unique little person that God is shaping them into. Sometimes it’s just reading a few books and having a heart-to-heart chat before bed. Other times it’s a special outing of some kind. The key is giving that child my focused attention and truly enjoying being with him or her.
I have come to treasure these one-on-one times as highlights in my week. But in order for these moments to be meaningful, it requires a deliberate decision to tune out distractions and stresses, slow down and really be “all there” when I’m with my children. I have to put away my phone and iPad and ignore the computer. I have to say “no” to the many mental distractions that vie for my focus. And I have to say “no” to the urgent things screaming for my attention, so that I can make time for what is truly important.
This is something I must continually work at, and it is not easy for me, especially when I am in the middle of a more intense season of ministry or writing deadlines. But by God’s grace, it is my desire not to let these precious years pass by unsavored, but to make the most of each and every day that He has given me with these little ones!
Here are a few bonus tips on slowing down and delighting your kiddos…
- Put boundaries around media in your home, especially television. When media is blaring and distracting us, it is all too easy to be around our families, but not really build relationship with them
- Put boundaries around “people time,” and make sure you plan lots of time to be with your husband and kids without other people around. Spending time with friends is important, but your immediate family needs sacred alone time together on a regular basis in order to build close relationships.
- Write down the funny things that your kids say and do, and put these anecdotes in a place where you can read and enjoy them often.
- Take lots of family pictures and build memory albums of your precious times together as a family.
If life seems a bit intense, don’t overlook the built-in laughter therapy God has given you right in your own family, especially if you have young children! Make the purposeful decision to slow down and enjoy them. A joyful mother is one who takes delight in her children. Sure, there are moments when delighting in their cuteness isn’t really in order — like when they are screaming or disobeying. But don’t get so focused on your parenting challenges that you overlook how truly unique and hilarious your kids are! Remember, they are God’s precious gifts to you.